Primitive Societies

Regardless of how civilized the world is, there are still large numbers of people living in the most primitive conditions. The most important of these because they are the most scientifically studied are the "aborigines" of Australia. The scientific study of the aboriginal Australian forms the basis of what is best known of primitive societies in general.

Before the colonization of Australia, The aboriginal Australian understood neither the cultivation of the land nor the rearing of sheep and cattle. The dingo was their only "domestic" animal. They took shelter in caves and in primitive huts. They had no food but the natural products of the earth. They knew a very primitive form of fire-making and their traditional cooking was very crude. They have no knowledge of metal work. Their weapons were the flint-headed spear, the axe and the wooden boomerang. They wore no clothing at all. Living like this on the point of starvation may have gone on for thousands of years.

The Totem group was the real social unit of the aboriginal Australian. The Totem is not an Australian word but it is generally accepted to designate the name of an institution which is found everywhere among primitive people. The Totem group is primarily a group of people distinguished by the sign of a natural object, such as an animal or tree, who may not intermarry with one another — this is the first rule of primitive social organization; its origin is lost in antiquity ("Alcheringa") but its object is certainly to prevent the intermarriage of close relatives. Marriage takes place between men and women of different Totems; the husband belongs to all the women of his wife's totem and the wife belongs to all the men of the husband's totem at the same time that a communal marriage is established between the men and women of the two different Totems - the men and women being of the same generation. This presents a most valuable objective lesson in social history. There are no unmarried couples; marriage for them is part of the natural order into which they are born.

The ceremonies were kept secret and are directed by a "Birraark" or sorcerer, usually an old man. The candidates are instructed in the history of their Totem and on the power of the Birraark. They were initiated into the mystery of the Totem, usually accompanied by an ordeal such as circumcision and then they were tattooed with a seal of identity that marks them for a given Totem and a given generation in that Totem. In this way is constructed the simple system of relationship of the aboriginal Australian before British colonization. The mother took a predominant role, for descent was almost always reckoned through females. Parent, child, brother and sister were the only recognized relationships. Rudimentary as this system may appear to be, it is widely spread among the Malay Archipelago and prevails widely among primitive peoples everywhere.

The Totem served the purpose of forbidding intermarriage between close relatives and will deal destruction if this rule is not strictly enforced. These are the rudiments of two of the most important factors in human progress: Religion and Law. The rudimentary notion of Law is very specific about what is prohibited or Taboo. Primitive people do not recognize any duties towards strangers unless there is an abundant food supply in a given area. It is a sure sign of progress if the same area is able to maintain an ever larger number of people. In his own milieu, close to nature, the savage outwits the civilized man but both are subject to natural law.

Lewis H. Morgan author of Ancient Society considers the American Indians to be the link between the primitive and patriarchal state of society.

According to legend and the Codex Chimalpopoca, Quetzalcoat being intoxicated with pique had incest with his sister Quetzalpetlatl. Upon realizing the act, he declared: "... I've sinned. I'm not fit to rule." He burned his palace, buried his treasures and left forever the beloved city of Tollan, cradle of Toltec civilization.

 
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >